There's no way around it. Sometimes life happens right when you have a deadline you must make - rain or shine.
This year, I've set some personal writing deadlines in order to make a major step forward in my professional writing career.
But, out of the blue, the landlords who assured us they wouldn't want the charming beach bungalow we were renting until they retired recently informed us they were moving back in sooner than they thought (after they knock it down and build a two-story masterpiece in its place, of course). The timing to say the least wasn't great but as I stated above, life happens.
So now, I'm in the middle of an unplanned move but I still have my personal writing deadlines. I'm in the re-writing process of my original TV pilot that I'd like to submit to the Stage 32 TV Writer's Fellowship Contest due tomorrow, January 27th and there's this weekly post for Rosanna's Take on Tuesday.
What I've learned from working with top entertainment executives is that if you can't keep your personal deadlines, you'll never be given the opportunity to have professional ones. Because the very definition of being a professional is your ability to get it written anyway because let's face it - life happens for everybody. It's the choices you make during these unusual circumstances that end up making the difference.
Now I also believe that our work culture has evolved in such a way that being stressed has become some sort of badge of honor that proves your productivity instead of the soul sucking, sabotaging force it really is. Scientific evidence has shown that being stressed for chronic periods of time (which includes pretty much everyone working over 40 hours a week) doesn't serve productivity or your health. And if you don't have your health, you can't work - at all.
That being said, I feel the need to explain why you should bother to manage your stress particularly during those times in your life when there's no avoiding burning the midnight oil.
For one, I learned these tips first hand when I made the conscious choice to do things differently from the days when I'd prepare for trial to when I launched my own business last year. The difference these three tips made in my abilities were astounding and it's these very discoveries I made during that time I'm sharing with you now.
So here are my three stress management tips to get you through those times when you need to make a deadline, rain or shine.
Tip #1 - Fit in Sleep
Normally, I get no less than 7 hours of sleep a night. Research has shown that habitually depraving yourself of sleep doesn't increase your productivity or your bottom line. It just destroys your health.
However, we're talking about those shorter time frames when life happens, you have to make a deadline and sleep seems like a luxury.
Here's the big secret though - not sleeping at all will actually make it harder for you to make your deadline because your mind is going to be tired and less productive taking you longer to complete the task anyway.
So you should actually sleep as much as possible to have as rested, well functioning mind that takes less time to complete your task and makes the deadline either way.
Here's how you do it - sleep at night for as long as possible and then fit in an hour nap throughout the day.
If the boss won't let you get away for an hour because he's from the old guard that erroneously believes running you into the ground actually somehow makes him more money (when it doesn't), try to fit in 3 twenty (20) minute naps spread throughout the day. It's just easier to escape unnoticed for a shorter period of time.
As long as you do good work and make that deadline, his resistance to your naps may be overcome with your increased performance.
Tip # 2 - Feed Yourself Good Food
In the past, I'd try to save time by relying heavily on processed foods like pizza delivery and frozen meals. Once I scarfed them down, I would get right back to work.
But once I had to cut out gluten, dairy and soy for health reasons, I was forced to cut out all processed foods. That meant that no matter how daunting the deadline, I had to stop working, take the time to make and then eat a home cooked nutritious meal. (Side note: a good time to fit in one of those 20-minute naps is after this meal.)
What I discovered (besides dropping thirty stubborn pounds) was I didn't "lose" any time because I had more energy and was far more productive with the already long hours I was logging in. Basically, I was getting the work done faster!
What's even better is I'm experiencing the same results as I follow these same tips during this present move as I continue to work on my personal writing deadlines. The proof in the pudding is the fact you're reading this on time as scheduled.
Tip #3 - Focus Inward
Focusing inward means taking the time to meditate, plan and visualize your entire day from the moment you wake up. Another belief I held in the past when facing a deadline was I didn't have time to meditate so I'd cut it out completely.
But what I find to be true now that I don't cut it out regardless is that the twenty minutes I spend in silence visualizing my entire day, play by play, going exactly the way I want helps me achieve far more than those twenty minutes could give me without it.
Essentially, I don't really save time when I cut my daily meditation because without it, I get frazzled and lose focus more easily; thereby, losing more productivity than I gained in time.
This is because meditation releases stress, resets the mind and gives it direction. Your visualization essentially is a roadmap for your mind to follow and you're much less likely to get lost if you have a map to guide you, right?
In the end, life will happen and you'll still have to make those deadlines anyway. But if you follow my three stress management tips, you'll still make that deadline but you'll do it being more calm and productive; thereby, leaving you exhilarated instead of exhausted.